Harry Riggins is on a hot mistrial streak, leaving two Orleans Parish juries in his wake.
For the second time in three months, Criminal District Court Judge Byron Williams granted a mistrial Tuesday and sent a jury home in the middle of a gun possession case against the 29-year-old New Orleans man.
The first time, in May, Riggins won a mistrial when he stepped out of the courtroom as the judge and lawyers were discussing an issue in chambers. He never returned.
He was arrested a month later and returned to court this week to face a new trial on the came charge.
Riggins took the witness stand in his own defense late Tuesday, claiming that the gun police found in a search of his house in May 2012 was for his own protection.
Riggins had the bullet marks to back up his justification, lifting up his shirt to reveal one wound on his chest, pointing to another on his cheek and motioning toward a third on his backside — all from the same shooting incident, which he said took place during a second-line in Hollygrove, though he claimed not to know who shot him.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Danon began his cross-examination of Riggins about 3:30 p.m., and he asked Riggins about walking out of his last trial.
Williams called foul, saying the jury wasn’t supposed to hear about Riggins’ flight, for which he faces no pending criminal charge.
The judge again declared a mistrial and sent the jury home. As he did before, though, he allowed District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office a chance to appeal his decision.
In the earlier case, the state 4th Circuit Court of Appeal rejected the argument from Cannizzaro’s office that the trial should go on in Riggins’ absence.
Riggins’ attorneys, Gregory Carter and John Fuller, described Danon’s mention of Riggins’ abrupt departure from court as a deliberate move to scuttle the trial.
“I think he didn’t like how his case was unfolding,” Carter said.
“He purposefully aborted the case,” Fuller said, adding that prosecutors were caught off-guard by Riggins’ justification defense to the charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Fuller said Riggins was fearful after a gunman came to his mother’s house shortly before his arrest. Riggins testified that he always kept the gun at home.
Cannizzaro’s office announced its intention to appeal the mistrial order.
Christopher Bowman, a spokesman for the office, dismissed the allegation that prosecutors intentionally pressed the abort button.
“We are seeking a review of the judge’s ruling,” Bowman said. “I think that’s indicative of how we thought the trial was going.”
Riggins, who had been out on bond when he bolted court in May, remains behind bars now in lieu of $350,000 bail.
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